Building a social purpose brand: the new nonprofit imperative

If the 2000′s was the decade of “why,” 2012 and beyond will be about social purpose and creating a clear value proposition for your nonprofit organization. How do you create this and engage your stakeholders in your social purpose and the value you create for society? It starts with discovering and expressing your organization’s higher purpose and focusing on outcomes, not activities!

Organizations that stand for a clear and inspiring social purpose and bring commitments to life through outcome-driven action will deepen relationships, foster loyalty, build sustainable organizations and achieve positive social change.

To infuse asocial purpose into your organization, define and demonstrate a three-dimensional brand value proposition:

  • Head: Articulate your leadership position–Identify what your organization stands for—the unique, differentiated idea that sets it apart and explains what the organization does better than others.
  • Heart: Express your social purpose–Forge an emotional and personal connection with your core stakeholders. Elevate your leadership position to a higher purpose with specific outcomes—something bigger than organizational activities, something your constituents care about and believe in.
  • Hands: Rally your community–Use your social purpose to create a sense of community–inside and outside of the organization–to rally and inspire action. Unite people around shared commitments, values and interests that add meaning to their lives and help change our communities and the world for the better.

This new approach requires a profound shift in philosophy. It calls for a deep commitment to ensuring that what your organization stands for–its social purpose–is communicated and lived through every stakeholder interaction. This is a shift from:

Standing for everything to articulating a clear purpose: In an effort to satisfy multiple stakeholders, nonprofits often try to be everything to everyone. To truly break through, a nonprofit finds and expresses what it stands for–its higher social purpose. It uses that bigger purpose to tell an enduring story that helps unify its actions from year to year.

Reporting activities to demonstrating outcomes: There is an old saying that states, activities tell and benefits sell. Rather than just reporting on activities, a BNB (Breakthrough Nonprofit Brand) focuses its communications on the benefits and outcomes that deliver value. By issuing compelling, personally relevant offers, a breakthrough organization makes association with its brand a top choice over all other alternatives.

Undertaking transactions to building relationships: Traditionally, nonprofits emphasize annual numbers and dollars raised. An organization that invests in and rewards staff for building long-term relationships will break through. It takes the time to engage in a meaningful dialogue with donors. This ongoing conversation helps illuminate what the organization means to its supporters and what their involvement says about them to others. It creates a true community of believers.

Being well-known to being well-owned: Being better-known does not equate to being better-understood or valued. A breakthrough organization appreciates the importance of awareness and fundraising but spends just as much time engaging internal and external communities in the higher purpose. It believes in the power of many and meaningfully engages a critical mass of people in its cause. Inclusive, not exclusive, it creates owner-based relationships with constituents and encourages creative engagement. By empowering an army of supporters who call the organization their own, it causes people to take another look and creates waves of new recruits eager to commit to the cause.

Moving from organizational silos to integration: A high performance nonprofit uses its clear social purpose as the force behind everything the organization does, making it the central management preoccupation for the CEO, board, executive team and all staff and volunteers. It is at the heart of governance, operations and mission achievement. A concerted effort is made to break down internal silos and bring the organization together around the social purpose for operational effectiveness.

With the leadership of the CEO and senior management, a social purpose brand can become the catalyst for continual self-assessment and innovation. It is a must-do to create a unique organizational identity infused with passion and trust. Forward-looking senior leaders ensure this brand-centric philosophy is embraced by the whole organization. They leverage the brand to strengthen donor loyalty, recruit top executives, rally staff members, meaningfully engage volunteers, drive diversified funding streams and ultimately, make a greater social impact.

A powerful social purpose brand conveys the organization’s focus, credibility and unique contributions. In today’s environment, it is critical to focus on ways to stand out and win head, heart and hands. This approach maximizes trust, forges stronger relationships and secures a continuous flow of resources to fulfill critical mission objectives. Social purpose branding is the new nonprofit imperative.

See also:

Brandraising

Cause Marketing for Nonprofits

Married to the Brand

Image credit: why.nextness.com.au

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